Jury Nullification Position Paper

Jury Nullification Position Paper

CRMJ 2020 American Legal Systems – Fall 2022

The first reaction paper is due on Dropbox.  Please write a reaction/response paper to one (only one) of the two questions below.  Formatting/general nature of the paper:

  • Word document 4–5 pages long. This excludes abstract, title page, reference page etc. The body of the paper therefore will have at least 1,000 words, preferably more.
  • At the top of the first page, indicate your name and which question you are responding to
  • Double-spaced Times New Roman 12-point font with standard margins
  • Pages numbered
  • Use Word format
  • This requires research beyond the course materials. You must read the entirety of the opinions you reference and look up publications/articles commenting on the cases.
  • Use APA citation style. Look up APA citation style. A slide is also attached. Points will be DOCKED for failure to adhere to this requirement. The minimum page length count is exclusive of the references page

Question 1:

Both United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974) and Massachusetts v. Laird, 400 U.S. 886 (1970) concerned the Political Question Doctrine. [This is defined on p. 393, and discussed on pp 130-2 of the class text 8th. Ed.] Central to both cases was whether the actions at issue were within the discretion of the other co-equal branches and therefore not properly subject to judicial intervention and resolution by the Courts. Imagine that you were a SCOTUS justice in either of the cases.

Would you have voted with the majority or would you have dissented?  Justify your vote.  When providing reasons to justify your vote, feel free to draw upon (a) how binding you think this decision is now (b) considerations regarding the purposes, policies, and/or principles behind the political question doctrine under our constitutional system and (c) how clear you find this doctrine to be in the abstract, and how consistent has the court been in its application.

The paper should: (1) start by stating clearly whether you would have voted with the majority or whether you would have dissented; (2) then offer arguments justifying your vote in an organized way.    Question 2:

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, jury nullification is “[a] jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness.”  For the purposes of this response paper, assume that jury nullification can happen only in a criminal proceeding when a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty.”  (Of course, a jury can acquit a criminal defendant even when it does not nullify – when it is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, on the basis of the law and the evidence, that the defendant is guilty.  But if a jury nullifies, then it does so only by acquitting a criminal defendant.)

Does the possibility of jury nullification make the American criminal legal system better or worse (all things of relevance to justice, societal well-being, and the rule of law considered)?

The paper should: (1) start by taking a clear position on whether, all things considered, allowing for jury nullification makes the American criminal legal system, overall, better or worse; (2) then offer arguments in favor of that position in an organized way; and (3) then respond to at least one (you may respond to more than one) of the strongest arguments against that position.

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